More than one in 10 secondary students missed school for Covid-related reasons last week, new statistics reveal.
The figures, released this afternoon by the Department for Education, show that 8.5 per cent of state school pupils were absent due to Covid on 1 July, up from 5.1 per cent on 24 June and 2.7 per cent on 17 June.
The situation is most severe in secondary schools, where more than one in 10 students were off for Covid reasons last Thursday (10.4 per cent). This represents a seven-fold increase in the Covid-related absence rate since half-term.
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From 10 June, figures have been adjusted to allow for Year 11 to 13 pupils not expected to attend.
Meanwhile, the Covid-related absence rate in primary schools stood at 7.4 per cent on 1 July, up from 4.5 per cent on 24 June and 2.7 per cent on 17 June.
Covid: School absence on the rise
The main factor driving Covid-related absences last week was self-isolation due to contact with a potential case inside school. On 1 July, 6.3 per cent of pupils were absent for this reason, up from 3.8 per cent on 24 June.
Absence rates have also been rapidly rising among teachers and other school staff.
On 1 July, 4.2 per cent of teachers and leaders in open state schools were absent due to Covid, up from 2.5 per cent on 24 June and 1.7 per cent on 17 June.
And Covid-related absence rates for teaching assistants and other staff rose to 3.9 per cent last week. This compares with 2.4 per cent on 24 June and 1.5 per cent on 17 June.
The news comes on the same day the sector is expecting an announcement from education secretary Gavin Williamson on ending bubbles and the need to self-isolate in schools.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This is another massive rise in Covid-related pupil absence. The vast majority of these absences are children who are self-isolating not because they necessarily have the virus themselves, but because of potential contact with a positive case.
"It highlights why the government's rules on Covid management in schools and colleges must change in order to end this educational disruption, and the prime minister yesterday confirmed this will happen as part of the step four roadmap in England. We look forward to hearing the details from the education secretary this afternoon.
"In the meantime, we can only pay tribute to schools and colleges for all that they are doing to manage this incredibly difficult situation."